Consulting group hosts workshop on downtown revitalization

Elko Daily Free Press

ELKO — The city has discussed redevelopment for years, and now area leaders are ready to see some action. With the help of a consulting group, changes might come sooner rather than later.

Representatives of Leland Consulting Group based in Portland, Oregon, are in town this week to get feedback on downtown Elko. The company hosted a workshop Wednesday on downtown revitalization.

“The downtown’s part of the draw for what brings people here,” said Chris Zahas, managing principal of Leland Consulting Group.

About 20 people attended the workshop, representing public and private organizations including the City of Elko, the redevelopment agency and advisory council, the Downtown Business Association, Coldwell Banker/Algerio Q-Team Realty, Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College, GET My Ride Transit Authority, and others.

As a part of Leland Consulting Group’s visit to Elko, Zahas and David Siegal, senior project manager with Leland Consulting Group, spoke to residents downtown and heard about their concerns and suggestions.

City Planner Rick Magness said a basic necessity for all people is that downtown is clean and safe. Several attendees wanted to see places for children in the downtown area, and the idea of creating a splash pad was brought up several times.

“There’s a real desire for a there there … a place to live, work and play,” Siegal said.

After discussing strategies for downtown revitalization, Zahas and Siegal recommended four initial steps to the participants: 1. Pick a demonstration block or blocks. 2. Get a project started. 3. Fix the existing assets (especially streets and parks). 4. Keep track of successes.

“We think there really is a good framework … and good resources from which to build,” Siegal said.

Zahas said Elko has great outdoor activity appeal and a lot of people are committed to making the community a better place.

“Those local champions are key,” he said.

Zahas said in talking to people on the street in Elko, many felt a sense of impatience regarding the city’s redevelopment plans. The public has heard a lot of talk about redevelopment, but they haven’t seen a lot of change, he said. Residents are skeptical that the city can follow through with its plans.

Those frustrations were shared by many in the room.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to be here and share ideas,” said RAC Chairwoman Lina Blohm.

However, she added that the city has done workshops and discussions before, and plans have not progressed beyond that.

“Implementation for me is key,” she said.

Zahas said Leland Consulting Group works on short term plans of about two to five years instead of 20-year master plans that are in-depth and long term.

“These guys know how to get things done on the ground,” Magness said.

Leland Consulting Group is a real estate development advising firm for public and private entities, Zahas said. The company focuses on downtown revitalization.

“We help identify problems, find and prioritize solutions, and give (cities) an action plan,” he said. “ … Urban design helps you figure out how communities fit together.”

Siegal said the company works with multiple jurisdictions that work together to come up with viable and “construction-able” solutions. He described the work Leland does in phases. Phase one, which began during the company’s visit this week, is discovery, he said. Leland learns about the community and what residents want to see changed.

The next phase Siegal called envision. Leland takes what it has heard and makes a vision for the downtown. Siegal and Zahas will come back to Elko in a few months and test the vision with the community, revising it so that residents are happy with the plan.

Finally comes the action plan and implementation. In Elko’s case, Siegal said that step in the process will come by spring of next year.

“We’re not the people who draw maps and charts,” Siegal said. “We’re the people who get stuff done.”

The redevelopment agency is funding Leland Consulting Group through its budget, Magness said. Per the contract between RDA and Leland, the cost is not to exceed $100,000 as budgeted.

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